Verdi Requiem
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order number
468 079-2
Gergiev's Verdi Requiem
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Philips celebrates the Verdi centenary in 2001 with a stunning performance of the Requiem; a mighty reflection on life and death that Bernard Shaw said would prove more enduring than any of Verdi's opera
Recorded in London by Fleming, Borodina, Bocelli, D'Arcangelo and Gergiev's Kirov Orchestra and Chorus

"Shortly before I took part in the recording of the Requiem, I had recorded Verdi arias, but the work that Verdi wrote in honour of the great writer Manzoni, of course is much more intimate and is much more profound. Manzoni was an extraordinary religious man and after his death he was given a State funeral. When I sang the Requiem I thought of God and of my father. " Andrea Bocelli


Valery Gergiev who is artistic director of the Kirov orchestra, opera and ballet - and Principal Guest Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera - knows that the choice of the Kirov's unique resources has brought a new ingredient to the performance of the Requiem.

"I know," he says, "that when you think about Russian conductors or Russian singers like Olga Borodina, Verdi is not the first name that springs to mind. But Russian opera demands the same sort of dramatic and energetic quality that Verdi requires.
I think the distinctive depth and range of the Kirov forces bring something of great importance to the Requiem, for there is no other work like it."
"To have recorded this piece in a church," says Renée Fleming "is already inspiring and when you add the acoustic to the kind of sound the Orchestra has, it's ear splitting. I'm sure that this was the effect that Verdi intended: to really rock people out of their seats ... and it does."

"I could not pass this opportunity to do this piece with Valery Gergiev", says Renée Fleming. "He's a conductor who can inspire and those are the kinds of situations that I seek as a singer, because I know that he will enable me to surpass my own limitations."
"It's an organic feeling working with the Maestro and his orchestra," says Andrea Bocelli. "They kind of breathe together. I feel this orchestra can perform in a way that no other orchestra can do. It's incredible."
There is no work more central to the 2001 Verdi celebrations - of the hundredth anniversary of his death - than the Requiem Giuseppe Verdi wrote for Alessandro Manzoni. It is a product of the most peaceful part of his life. In the sixteen years between Aida in 1871 and Otello in 1887 he wrote no operas - seeming happy,  it appeared, to live a rustic life on his farm near Milan, growing corn and wheat and raising chickens.
Verdi was a man of great spirituality but by no means of formal religious beliefs - "a very doubtful believer" as his wife put it - but in 1868 when Rossini died in Paris, Verdi suggested that the city of Bologna where he grew up should celebrate his life with a Requiem, written by a number of Italy's leading  composers. Verdi himself composed a final Libera me and the combined work was finished although never performed.
He returned to the idea, however, five years later with the death of Alessandro Manzoni, a poet, novelist, humanitarian and national hero - a  prominent figure, like Verdi, in the Risorgimento, the movement for Italian unification. Manzoni was given a State funeral which Verdi did not attend, choosing rather to go alone and silently to his grave. He had once inscribed a photograph of himself to Manzoni with the words: "I esteem and admire you as much as any one man can esteem and admire anyone on this earth. You are a saint, Don Alessandro." And with his death  Verdi decided to compose a Requiem by himself with the intention of performing it one year to the day after Manzoni's death.
It was an immediate, if controversial, success and after its first performance
in the church of San Marco in Milan, Verdi conducted another 15 performances in Paris, four in Vienna and three in London.The Libera me he had written for the abortive Rossini Requiem was substantially used, revised and re-scored for soprano and unaccompanied chorus. It provided a heartrending and majestic conclusion to a work that is certainly as powerful and unforgettable as anything he ever wrote for any of his operas.
Verdi's Requiem "is a symbol of power and mystery, of life and death", says Gergiev. "I think Verdi gave us an incredible document of human genius. He embraced the whole gamut of our thoughts, of our hopes and of our inevitable problems." But what perhaps distinguishes the Requiem from others, by Mozart, Brahms, Berlioz or even Fauré is that it stems from Verdi's own compassion for, and understanding of, two great men so that it becomes a direct and immensely personal statement of Verdi's own spirituality. Brahms said that only a genius could have written such a work and we might say that the demands it makes upon its conductor, soloists and chorus require exceptional artists to convey its unique power and force.
Andrea Bocelli's career in pop music sometimes overshadows the enthusiasm with which he follows his increasingly more successful way as classical singer. Gergiev, who chose him for the recording, said:

"In my opinion the reason for his success is the importance he sees in the traditional values of music: beauty of sound, beauty of melody, expression of the own feelings. People let themselves get enchanted by his voice, but also from the world of feelings he transmits, and just this is the reason, why I wanted him to take part in this performance. He works hard and always is ready to learn more. Valery Gergiev

"With Andrea Bocelli, who has a huge mass of fans, I was impressed by the devotion to the repertoire" Renée Fleming


courtesy of UNIVERSAL MUSIC, Hamburg, Germany